Ukraine Measles Outbreak, Critical Care Toxicology, Assessing Epidemic Forecasts

Health Security HeadlinesSee what we’re reading this week at Global Biodefense on topics including the assessment of real-time epidemic forecasts; chemical incident critical care toxicology; Burkholderia pseudomallei detection; and a mass vaccination campaign in Ukraine to stem measles outbreak.

Quick Index

POLICY + INITIATIVES

Universities Have Role to Enhance Biosecurity

Universities need to complement the government’s efforts in creating awareness on bio-security in our institutions aimed at reducing the threat of biological attacks by carrying out research and developing tools that can be used to counter them. Daily Nation

Can the U.S. Get 1 Million People to Volunteer Their Genomes?

A massive biobank effort, first planned under the Obama administration, launches this week. Unraveling this puzzle remains essential for scientists hoping to achieve the elusive goal of offering tailored treatments or personalized prevention plans. Scientific American

Reports White House May Tighten Limits on Chinese Researchers Alarms Scientists

“It just seems odd that you would again try to restrict by nationality rather than on the basis of any one individual security threat,” said Dr. Atul Grover, executive vice president of the Association of American Medical Colleges. “That’s why we have a security process.” STAT

California State Audit of San Diego’s Hepatitis A Emergency

Assemblyman Todd Gloria is asking the state to determine whether the local response to the region’s deadly hepatitis A outbreak was by the book. The outbreak killed 20 people and sickened almost 600 others last year. Any examination of San Diego’s hepatitis outbreak response will have a national audience with linked cases confirmed in Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky and Utah. San Diego Tribune

Legionnaires’ Outbreaks Prompt Bills to Mandate Faster Notifications

While Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s upgrade plan to prevent future Legionnaires’ outbreaks at the Quincy Veterans Home makes its way to legislators, some General Assembly members are pushing for changes to how notifications about outbreaks are handled. State Journal Register

Genome Writing Project Aims to Rally Scientists Around Virus-Proofing Cells

The project might help researchers move beyond editing tools such as CRISPR, which typically tweak DNA at a few specific locations, and toward more widespread redesign of genomes. Science Mag

CHEMICAL WEAPONS

Critical Care Toxicology: Diagnosis and Management of Critically Poisoned Patient

The specialty of toxicology is at once the oldest and newest specialty of medicine. The development of new drugs on a daily basis; transportation and use of thousands of industrial chemicals; and the potential for terrorist chemical warfare release make it infinitely more complex. (book review) Journal of Emergency Medicine

No Suspects Identified Yet in Salisbury Nerve Agent Attack, Says UK NatSec Advisor

It is now almost two months since Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found slumped on a park bench in central Salisbury after being exposed to the military grade novichok nerve agent. Sky News

SELECT AGENTS

The Light Chain Defines the Duration of Action of Botulinum Toxin Serotype A Subtypes

Botulinum neurotoxins are the most potent protein toxins for humans and potential bioterrorism threats, but they are also widely used as pharmaceuticals. Within the large family of BoNTs, only two subtypes are currently used as pharmaceuticals, with many BoNT subtypes remaining as untapped potential sources for unique pharmaceuticals. mBio

Assessing the Performance of Real-Time Epidemic Forecasts: A Case Study of the 2013-16 Ebola Epidemic

Researchers found that probabilistic calibration was good at short time horizons but deteriorated for long-term forecasts, suggesting that forecasts were of good enough quality to reliably inform decision making only a few weeks ahead of time, reflecting the high level of uncertainty in the processes driving the trajectory of the epidemic. bioRxiv

The Forgotten Ebola Survivors of Sierra Leone

Mariatu Kargbo contracted Ebola while working as a nurse. She survived and is now chairperson of the branch of the Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors (SLAES) in the northern city of Makeni. While grateful to be alive, she says she tires easily and feels weaker than before. NPR

Gain of Function Analysis Reveals Non-Redundant Roles for the Yersinia pestis

Virulence of Yersinia pestis in mammals requires the type III secretion system, which delivers seven effector proteins into the cytoplasm of host cells to undermine immune responses. All seven of these effectors are conserved across Y. pestis strains, but three — YopJ, YopT, and YpkA — are apparently dispensable for virulence. (abstract) bioRxiv

Panels for Testing Diagnostic Tools Targeting the Causative Agent of Melioidosis

Diagnostic tools designed to target Burkholderia pseudomallei, the causative agent of melioidosis that was classified as a Tier 1 Select Agent by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have typically suffered from false-positive and false-negative results because of a lack of understanding of the genomic diversity of B. pseudomallei and its genetic near neighbors. (abstract) Europe PMC

OUTBREAK NEWS + THREAT SURVEILLANCE

Measles Outbreak: More Than 1,000 People Got Sick in Ukraine

During the last week 1,070 people, including 507 adults and 563 children got the measles in Ukraine as the Health Ministry reported. ‘It is the biggest number of new cases spotted during a week since the measles outbreak’. 112 UA

Our Decades-Long Search for a Universal Influenza Vaccine Needs a Shot in the Arm

Even now, as Americans begin to put away the thermometers, hand sanitizers and cough drops, researchers are preparing for the next flu season. As early as February, they began trying to predict which influenza strains will dominate so they can create the right cocktail for next season’s vaccine. USA Today

Yemen Braced for Another Cholera Epidemic

Doctors are concerned that the current rainy season – which began in mid-April and usually lasts until the end of August – will trigger another outbreak of the disease, with conservative estimates suggesting that millions of people will be at risk of infection if the disease spreads uninterrupted. The Telegraph

Dengue Fever – Réunion, France: Disease Outbreak News

Although sporadic autochthonous dengue fever cases and clusters have been reported in Réunion before, the upsurge of cases since the beginning of 2018 is unprecedented. A lack of herd immunity in the local population may be enabling further transmission of the virus. Relief Web

Experts Warn of Potentially Fatal Horse Disease after Dakotas Outbreak

Equine Herpesvirus Myeloencephalopathy, or EHM, is a potentially fatal and highly contagious disease horses can develop. The disease has recently been confirmed in North Dakota and South Dakota. SC Times

Trends in Reported Vectorborne Disease Cases

The threat of vectorborne diseases is becoming an increasing issue within the United States, according to a new CDC report. During 2004–2016, nine vectorborne human diseases were reported for the first time from the United States and U.S. territories, and tickborne bacterial and protozoan diseases more than doubled during this period. Pandora Report

Kenyan Rains Raise Risk of Large-Scale Disease Outbreak, UN Says

Heavy rains and flooding in Kenya compounded a cholera outbreak and a chikungunya epidemic and increased the risk of large-scale spread of the diseases, the United Nations said. Bloomberg

Raw Oysters from BC Tied to Norovirus Outbreaks in Canada, US

Federal and state health authorities, along with Canadian public health officials, are investigating multistate and multi-province norovirus outbreaks linked to raw oysters from British Columbia. CIDRAP

Tick and Mosquito Infections Spreading Rapidly, C.D.C. Finds

The number of people getting diseases transmitted by mosquito, tick and flea bites has more than tripled in the United States in recent years, federal health officials reported on Tuesday. Since 2004, at least nine such diseases have been discovered or newly introduced here. NY Times

MEDICAL COUNTERMEASURES

Even a ‘Bad’ Flu Vaccine Could Save 61,000 Lives: Study

A truly dismal flu vaccine could still save thousands of lives, as long as roughly 40 percent of Americans got their shots, new research suggests. At that coverage level, a vaccine that was only 20 percent effective would avert 21 million infections and almost 130,000 hospitalizations — and save 61,000 lives. US News & World Report

Ukraine’s Momentous Vaccination Effort to Stop Measles Outbreak

Over 12,000 people have been infected with measles in Ukraine so far this year. Of those affected, 9158 have required hospitalization and 9 have died. Large-scale outbreak response measures have been undertaken since the start of the outbreak in 2017 to curb further spread of the disease and restore high routine immunization coverage. Relief Web

Seattle Biopharmaceutical Startup Developing a Treatment for Nerve-Agent Attacks

Developing a backup therapy for treating the seizures that affect victims of nerve agents could be a promising niche for a company whose name includes perhaps the most notorious such weapon, spelled backward. Seattle Times

RAPID DIAGNOSTICS

A Point-of-Care Diagnostic System to Detect Flu Viruses Using Chip-Based Ultra-Fast PCR

Chip‐based PCR technique can be diagnosed rapidly and directly from naked eye with EvaGreen the influenza also respiratory specimens within 23 min 15 s, including reverse transcription. Journal of Medical Virology (abstract)

A Digital Microfluidic System for Serological Immunoassays in Remote Settings

Many point-of-care diagnostics rely on lateral flow assays or microfluidics; however, these methods generally cannot test multiple samples simultaneously. Ng et al. optimized inkjet-printed digital microfluidic (DMF) cartridges and a portable control system to perform serological immunoassays in remote settings. Science Translational Medicine

Shoebox-Sized Lab Can Diagnose Infectious Diseases from a Drop of Blood

Device testing was conducted at a refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, where pinprick blood samples were examined for antibodies to measles and rubella. But the scientists behind the work said future versions of the mini-lab could be used to test for antibodies to other pathogens and also for the pathogens themselves. STAT News

SPECIAL INTEREST

The Golden State Killer is Tracked Through a Thicket of DNA, and Experts Shudder

Even as scientific experts applauded last week’s arrest of the Golden State Killer suspect, Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, some expressed unease on at reports that detectives in California had used a public genealogy database to identify him. Privacy and ethical issues glossed over in the public’s rush to embrace DNA databases are now glaringly apparent, they said. NY Times

The Ugly Reality of Privacy Curtains

Privacy curtains, two words that make most infection preventionists shudder. Frequently touched with dirty hands before and after interacting with patients and/or the environment, these curtains—like any object, but especially a fabric one—are ripe for microbial contamination. Contagion Live

Thank you for reading Global Biodefense. Subscribe now to get the latest updates by email. To share comments and insights, please contact Editor Stephanie Lizotte. Stay up to date with us on Twitter @GlobalBioD and follow Global Biodefense on Facebook and Instagram.

From Our Partners

More From Global Biodefense